With the Crew sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference of MLS, all focus is on bettering the team. And sometimes all that's needed during a dark stretch is a mood lightener. Meet Sloan and the Keepers, the band started during the preseason by goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum (acoustic guitar), who recruited his musically inclined teammates and backups Matt Lampson (drums, backup vocals) and Daniel Withrow (vocals), along with rookie midfielder Shawn Sloan (guitar).
Gruenebaum originally picked up the guitar two years ago when he confronted a shameful truth: He had become, as he puts it, "almost too good" at Guitar Hero. Alas, he realized, pretend shredding in front of a pretend audience would only afford him pretend glory. "I was in my basement, and my wife was working upstairs. I had my plastic guitar around my neck, and I just hit rock bottom. I realized: I was a loser," says Gruenebaum. "I thought, Hey, if I put as much time into real guitar as I did Guitar Hero, I might actually pick up a useful hobby."
With influences ranging from the driving alt-rock of Dave Grohl to the raunchy parody songs of The Howard Stern Show, the group has become an in-house gang of roasters. No one is exempt from a ribbing, not even Crew captain Federico (Pipa) Higuain. The Argentine striker—and team's highest-paid player—is the target of SATK's second-most-viewed YouTube video, "Don't Worry, Pipa's Happy." Set to Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy," the song, which features vocals from Mr. Happy himself, contains lines such as "Must be nice to afford a boat/$100 fine is such a joke/Don't worry, Pipa's happy." Says Sloan, "As our franchise player, if Pipa's playing well, we're playing well. So keeping him happy is good for our club."
Their most recent release, "Born Near Ohio State," is a Springsteen-themed jab at the sizable contingent of native Ohioans on the Crew roster. (Lyrics include "Got in a little hometown jam/Got every beat reporter eating out my hand," and "Went down to see my p.r. man/Another paid appearance, such an easy scam.")
If Sloan has his way, future targets (or perhaps collaborators) will include coach Robert Warzycha. But Gruenebaum says he's treading carefully: "We're not the most successful team right now, so maybe the fan base isn't as into it as they would be if we were winning more."
So could dreams of rock and roll superstardom be reason enough for the Crew to, er, amp up their effort? "Other than for the purpose of keeping my job?" Gruenebaum says, laughing. "Yeah, I mean this is right up there for sure."